Distance Learning: Helpful Techniques to Make it More Manageable
As we enter into the tenth month of this new COVID lifestyle, we all likely are facing personal struggles at this point. While I remain thankful I can still work and stay in contact with my clients, I will be happy to throw away my blue light glasses and bid farewell to Zoom forever. I know that these struggles are similar for many of us who are working and schooling from home. In recent months, the mental health needs of my young clients have significantly increased and the weight of distance learning is truly taking its toll on everyone. Having watched the progression of distance learning since March and the new lifestyles my clients have created, I have found some techniques that seem to be effective in reducing some of the challenges presented with our new digital classrooms.
The bed is not a suitable classroom. I’ve noticed an increasing trend of my clients participating in classes from the comfort of their beds. While this seems like a great option for getting extra sleep and staying cozy, I find it is leading to many issues. Many of my clients report logging into class and falling back asleep, often missing first period, staying sluggish all day, and struggling to regain energy when school is done. If at all possible, help your child find a designated workspace separate from their sleep space. A small desk or table with a comfortable chair is much more likely to yield a higher level of focus and productivity.
Get up and get moving! Given that our lifestyle right now is much more sedentary than normal, it is important to make physical activity a priority. Have your kids wake up 30-60 minutes before school starts to allow their brains and their bodies time to wake up (a little breakfast wouldn’t hurt either). They have lost the time of getting ready, taking the bus, and being more fully awake by the time they get to school, so it’s important to recreate that routine somewhere. It’s equally important to get outside, get some fresh air, and give your eyes and brain a break from the screen.
Be mindful of screen time – All of the screens. Most parents complain about how much time their child is on the phone and most doctors recommend reduced screen time for all age groups. But how are we supposed to manage this when everything is virtual right now? Keep in mind that most children have more than one screen, sometimes two or three. I have more than a few clients who report watching classes on their iPads while playing on their phones, and watching Netflix on their TVs. Even the most responsible teens are struggling with high levels of distraction with multiple devices accessible to them during the day. Unless your child needs their phone for school, consider having them hand it in or put it in another room during school hours. Limit how late they can be on their phone at night, and make sure they aren’t bouncing from one screen to the next all day and night long. Your child will probably dislike this suggestion greatly, but ultimately it will be helpful for their focus and productivity.
Be understanding. This is a broad statement, but very important. When it comes to your kids, be understanding that this is genuinely HARD on them, too! No amount of Google meets, Zoom calls, or breakout rooms will be an appropriate substitute for the socialization they are lacking right now. Your children miss their friends. They miss playing on the playground or in sports together, sharing stories at lunch, and chatting with their teachers IN PERSON. Please understand that this is hard on their teachers and school staff as well, and their school is truly doing the best they can. It’s easy to get upset with how a teacher is conducting their classroom, how they are posting assignments, or that they aren’t accepting late work – but their jobs have been flipped upside down and they all miss being able to teach your kids in person, too.
Last but not least – Support is available. Please reach out to your child’s guidance counselors if you or your child needs support. There are resources and options they can provide, and are happy to do so. Teachers are offering individual instruction and support after school hours, and the schools’ guidance counselors are easily accessible via email and Google Voice. Brook Lane is here to help as well. Most Washington County Public Schools have grant-funded therapy services available for your child. Each school has access to a Brook Lane therapist who provides short-term therapy for students in need of mental health support. Do not hesitate to reach out regarding this free service, as these therapists are willing and eager to help you through this difficult time.
Laura Zukowski is a licensed clinical professional counselor with Brook Lane. She is currently providing therapy services at Boonsboro Middle and High Schools, Washington County Technical High School and Williamsport High School as a collaborative effort between Brook Lane and Washington County Public Schools to assist students struggling with mental and behavioral concerns.